After 3 confirmed cases in Montgomery County, whooping cough spreads to Fairfax County

A child gets vaccinated. (WJLA file photo)

FAIRFAX, Va. (WJLA) – Just days after Montgomery County Public Schools officials announced three confirmed and nine suspected cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, among its students, the disease has now spread to Fairfax County.

So far, all of the known diagnosed cases of school-aged students with whooping cough in the Washington, D.C. region have been linked to Capital summer camp in Waynesboro, Pa. The disease has been spreading throughout Pennsylvania this summer.

As Fairfax County Public Schools students return to class on Tuesday, ABC 7 News has learned that the one diagnosed case of pertussis in the county is a summer camper who attends Gesher Jewish Day School, a private school in Fairfax.

On Monday, Fairfax County mother of four Mary Ann Ely and her two daughters were busy getting ready for the first day of school. But because her children’s immunizations have already been taken care of, Ely says whooping cough is less of a concern.

“I definitely have all my kids vaccinated and up to date on all of those things, for sure,” she said. “We had an incident last year, where my one daughter, they had whooping cough in the school.”

Capital Camps CEO Jonah Geller told ABC 7 News on Monday that “As an accredited camp of the American Camp Association, all of our campers and staff members are required to submit a complete medical form signed by a physician prior to attending any of our summer programs, including an immunization record.”

But even with up-to-date immunizations, this particular strain of whooping cough is proving contagious. The parents of the Fairfax private school student say their son was immunized for whooping cough as a child, and wasn’t yet due for his booster shot.

Suburban Hospital ER physician Dr. Bob Rothstein explained that, unfortunately, immunizations aren’t always enough.

“We’re not quite sure why the vaccine isn’t 100-percent effective, but it probably has to do with the immunity is waning, and also bacteria are pretty smart … they mutate and get resistant to what we’re treating with,” Dr. Rothstein said.

Whooping cough is considered most serious in small infants, where it can become potentially fatal. In school-aged children, pertussis isn’t as dangerous, but Dr. Rothstein says it can keep a child sick for weeks. If you see any signs of fever and persistent cough, contact your family physician.